Have you ever dreamed of escaping to a faraway island, where you will spend your days reading, scuba diving and waking up next to the beach?
Aimée Johnston, 26, from County Antrim has done just that.
The Cargin woman took a sabbatical from her day job to head to relocate to the Maldives as the archipelago nation’s “barefoot bookseller”.
Her job is running the Barefoot Bookshop, where she recommends titles and reads to children who are staying at a luxury resort, where one of the cheapest villas starts at $2,000 (£1,532) a night.
She also runs a weekly book club and gives creative writing lessons to guests.
What led Aimée to the Maldives?
“I’ve been working in the publicity department at Penguin Random House Ireland in Dublin for the past three years,” says Ms Johnston.
“It’s a job I absolutely love.”
When she found out she had been selected for the job as the Barefoot Bookseller, her employers were “incredibly supportive” and gave her a three-month sabbatical to head off on her travels.
The Barefoot Bookshop was created in collaboration between Ultimate Library, a company that curates library collections, and the resort where Ms Johnston works.
Owner Philip Blackwell came up with the idea after travelling around the world.
He developed the idea for a company that creates bespoke book collections for hotels, resorts and private residences that reflect their locale.
Their aim is to promote reading for leisure and literary events and activities on the island.
Authors sometimes travel to paradise to bring books to life in the perfect setting.
“Last week we had a visit from natural navigator Tristan Gooley, who led an expedition around the island, teaching guests techniques from his book How to Read Water.
“It was an unforgettable way to spend an afternoon,” she adds.
What’s the best part of the job?
It is the social element of her job that really appeals to her – when someone leaves the bookshop with a book that’s perfect for them after having a chat with Ms Johnston.
“Because everyone who visits is on holiday, they have the time to chat to me about their favourite writers, their favourite books, and I love nothing more than matching them with a title,” she says.
“My favourite part of the job is when a guest comes back to the bookshop because they feel they absolutely have to tell me everything about the book they’ve just read.”
She was delighted to recommend an Irish author to one of the visitors, a woman who was thrilled to find a new writer to add to her favourites.
“Last week I sold a copy of From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan to a woman who had never read his work before.
“Yesterday, a guest returned after having finished Normal People by Sally Rooney, and we talked about Marianne and Connell for ages.”
It can’t all be work? What does she do in her spare time?
Ms Johnston spends most of her time in the bookshop, but she always manages to make the most of her breaks during the afternoon before heading back to staff quarters next to the beach at night.
“I go scuba diving or snorkelling or read a book at the beach.
“I’m back in the bookshop for the evening, and after work, I either hang out with friends in the host bar or watch a film at the island’s Cinema Paradiso.”
Apparently, there are.
“The 20-odd boxes in the storeroom that I’m avoiding,” says Ms Johnston.
“I’ll get to them eventually,” she adds.
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